Ireland 24-14 Wales: Hosts hand holders first defeat in nine Six Nations games
|2020 Six Nations|
|Ireland (12) 24|
|Tries: Larmour, Furlong, Van der Flier, Conway Cons: Sexton 2|
|Wales (7) 14|
|Tries: Williams, Tipuric Cons: Biggar, Halfpenny|
Ireland sent out a statement of intent as they ran in four tries to end Wales' hopes of consecutive Grand Slams with a deserved 24-14 win in Dublin.
Tries from Jordan Larmour and Tadhg Furlong, either side of Tomos Williams' reply for Wales, saw the hosts lead 12-7 at half-time in the Six Nations game.
Josh van der Flier's score after the break and Andrew Conway's 75th-minute try sealed the home side's win.
Justin Tipuric's injury-time score provided late consolation for Wales.
The reigning Six Nations champions had chances to fight back before Conway's late finish in the corner and missed a glorious chance as, just as Stuart Hogg did last week, when Hadleigh Parkes lost control of the ball as he stretched to ground it over the try-line.
It is Wales' first Six Nations defeat since they last visited Dublin two years ago as their eight-match winning run in the competition came to an end.
Ireland much-improved from Scotland win
A week on from a blunt attacking performance against Scotland, Ireland appeared a far more threatening force as they enjoyed 66% of the first-half territory in a varied and accurate display.
Aided by a narrow Wales defence, the Irish back three of Larmour, Conway and Jacob Stockdale were afforded far more opportunities to run with ball in hand as the hosts constantly sought to send the ball wide.
Conway in particular put in several well-judged territorial plays as the Irish attack found a much better balance.
In midfield Robbie Henshaw and Bundee Aki provided destructive ball-carrying options as Nick Tompkins, on his first international start, found himself targeted in defence on numerous occasions.
While too easily allowing Ireland into their 22, Wales flexed their defensive muscles in the opening exchanges, forcing three turnovers inside the opening nine minutes.
However Ireland broke the visitors' resistance after 19 minutes, with the pack working through the phases before Larmour stepped inside Tompkins' poor tackle before holding off three defenders to ground.
Williams goes from hero to villain
While on the back foot in terms of possession, Wales' passing was that of a side full of confidence and eight minutes after falling behind a wonderful offload from Alun Wyn Jones to Dan Biggar allowed Williams to run a simple support line and level beneath the posts.
The danger for Ireland was that they would fall victim to the same issue that blighted Scotland last weekend, failing to make hay from their territorial advantage as solid defending kept them at bay.
However three minutes after his try, Williams gifted Ireland with a perfect opportunity as he dropped a regulation catch on his own five-metre line.
From the set-piece Ireland's forwards piled round the corner as Furlong drove over to restore the lead.
Ireland hold out at key stage
After Van der Flier finished a rolling maul seven minutes after the restart to push Ireland into a two-score lead, Wales set up camp in the Irish half for the first time in the game.
The visitors, who lost talismanic winger Josh Adams to a first-half injury, thought they had wrestled back the momentum when Parkes picked an excellent line to crash over only for replays to show he lost the ball before touching down.
Still Wales remained in Irish territory and, having enjoyed the better of the first-half scrum battle, kept faith in the set-piece as they stayed in position to strike back.
After over 10 minutes in the 22, Wales were penalised for collapsing a five-metre scrum right between the posts allowing Ireland to clear their lines. The roar from the Dublin crowd pointed to the significance of Ireland weathering the storm with 20 minutes remaining.
Just like it was a week ago, much of Ireland's win was owed to a solid defensive structure which held firm when their backs were pinned to the wall.
From that moment the momentum was clearly with the hosts, whose replacements added impetus to their ball carrying.
Another scrum, this time in the Welsh 22, set the platform for Ireland to move the ball right allowing Conway to dive over in the corner and claim the bonus point.
With nothing more than pride left to fight for, Wales rallied one last time and Tipuric stretched to touch down with the last act of the match after CJ Stander's sin-binning had reduced the hosts to 14 men.
Ireland: Larmour; Conway, Henshaw, Aki, Stockdale; Sexton (capt), Murray; Healy, Herring, Furlong, Henderson, Ryan, O'Mahony, Van der Flier, Stander.
Replacements: Kelleher, Kilcoyne, Porter, Toner, Deegan, Cooney, Byrne, Earls.
Wales: Halfpenny; North, Tompkins, Parkes, Adams; Biggar, Williams; Jones, Owens, Lewis; Ball, Wyn Jones (capt), Wainwright, Tipuric, Faletau.
Replacements: Elias, Carre, Brown, Beard, Moriarty, Davies, Evans, McNicholl.
Referee: Romain Poite (France)
Touch judges: Luke Pearce (England) & Mike Fraser (New Zealand)
TMO: Glenn Newman (New Zealand)